U.S. government opposes Canadian's appeal on torture

Wed May 12, 2010 7:16pm EDT
 
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Wednesday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the appeal of a Canadian man who wants to proceed with his lawsuit against top U.S. officials for sending him to Syria, where he says he was tortured.

The case involved Maher Arar, a Syrian-born software engineer who was detained by U.S. officials in 2002 at a New York airport while on his way home to Canada. He then was sent to Syria because of suspected links to al Qaeda.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, whom President Barack Obama nominated to the Supreme Court on Monday, did not take part in the case. The brief was signed by her deputy, Neal Katyal, as the acting solicitor general.

Kagan may stay out of most government cases before the Supreme Court while her nomination is pending. By taking a position now, she would have to remove herself from considering the cases later if confirmed by the Senate.

Arar says he was imprisoned in Syria for a year and tortured. He filed a federal lawsuit in New York in 2004 against top U.S. government officials.

But a U.S. appeals court last year dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that Arar did not have legal standing to sue and that legal protection and redress in cases such as his should be decided by Congress, not the courts.

In the administration's brief, Katyal said the case presented three narrow questions and that they all had been correctly decided by the appeals court.

Katyal said the decision by the appeals court does not conflict with any ruling by the Supreme Court or another appeals court. "Further review therefore is unwarranted," he said in urging that the appeal be rejected.

A decision by the Supreme Court on whether to hear the appeal probably will be made next month.

The Canadian government formally apologized to Arar in 2007 and paid him a C$10.5 million ($9.8 million) settlement.

(Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Cynthia Osterman)